Volunteering with nature center imparts important lessons

About a month ago the Vashon Nature Center put out a call for volunteers to quantify beach wrack at Lost Lake, where a bulkhead had been removed a year before. I figured I was the perfect person for the job since I had absolutely no idea what beach wrack was. But it was during a very low tide, and I love walking the beach. So I found myself among scientists, who actually understood what they were doing.

Beach wrack, I found out, is the organic material that washes up at the high tide line. We were to count the amount of seaweed and eel grass at specific predetermined points and the depth it had taken hold in the sand. We compared three areas: one where the bulkhead was removed, one that had never had a bulkhead and one where a bulkhead has been for years.

The place where the bulkhead was removed had seaweed and eel grass that had rooted in the sand. Grasses and reeds were present past the driftwood line. We then went to the area that never had a bulkhead. The seaweed and eel grass were more plentiful and were deeper into the sand. The area behind the driftwood was filled with grasses and reeds. Then we went to the bulkhead area. There was nothing. The ground was rocky with very little sand. No seaweed, no driftwood, no grasses. I was amazed. I believed that bulkheads were bad for the environment, but did not understand why. Wow! Seeing is believing.

This experience took me out of my usual doings, and I enjoyed working with new people. It was fun and opened my eyes in new ways. I am hooked and signed up for more volunteer work with the Vashon Nature Center. Next, I will be on bug survey duty at Beall Creek.

—Hilary Emmer

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